Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fun with kids in Vancouver: 5 Skytrain destinations

Riding the rails.
My kids, especially my son, love Vancouver's "automated driver-less light rapid transit system", better know as the SkyTrain. If I suggest an outing that involves the SkyTrain, it is pretty much always greeted with cheers and enthusiasm. To me, it's the perfect form of transit because trains run so frequently, and because the stations are so easy to find, I just wish it went to more places.

If you're visiting Vancouver, I definitely recommend that you make use of this public transit system, and if you're a local, you should already be using it!

Here are my family's 5 favorite SkyTrain destinations:

1. Science World
Take the SkyTrain to the station called Main Street/Science World and you will see the gigantic, glittering orb of Science World there, right by the waters of False Creek. It's a great place to take the kids on a rainy day, and if it's a sunny day you can always go for a walk along the water too. I've mentioned Science World before on this blog, and it really is one of the kid-friendliest places in the city.

2. Lonsdale Quay
This is the kind of outing where the trip itself is the best part of the adventure. Ride the SkyTrain to Waterfront Station, get off there and head over to the SeaBus. The SeaBus will then take you across the water to North Vancouver's Lonsdale Quay. My kids love this transit-adventure. Usually we go for a snack somewhere around the public market once we arrive, sit down to look at downtown from the dock outside the market, and then we just head back again. However, there are lots of interesting stores and restaurants in Lonsdale Quay if you want to spend a bit more time there!

3. Vancouver International Airport
This is another outing my kids love. Ride the SkyTrain to the airport and head up to the Public Observation Area in the domestic terminal. Several coffee shops and fast-food restaurants are located just nearby, and there's a great view of the tarmac with planes taking off and landing. There are also several exhibits about the airport itself, some of them interactive.

4. Gastown, Coal Harbour & more
Head down to Waterfront Station, and then go outside. Gastown is a nice place to look around, with lots of boutiques and souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. Or you can go for a walk along the water down to Coal Harbour and into Stanley Park if you're feeling more adventurous.

5. Metrotown
This is a gigantic mall located in Burnaby. It is massive. If you're at all into shopping, you will find a lot to like here since there are about 450 stores in the complex. There's a lot to do here for kids and families. For example, there's a Toys'r'Us, a Build-a-Bear store, movie theatres, arcades, food and snacks of pretty much every kind. There's also a train that runs through the mall that you can hitch a ride with for a fee. If your kids are like mine, and don't much care for shopping, you will probably limit your time in stores, but if you want a day of shopping with access to some kid-friendly activities and restaurants, this is a good place to go.

SkyTrain tips
  • You can buy tickets from the machines at the stations, but it is usually cheaper to get a book of so-called "Fare-Saver tickets". These are available at many convenience stores.
  • How much you pay depends on how far you go, and how many "zone boundaries" you cross. Check the Fare Zone Map to figure out what kind of ticket you will need.
  • Kids under age 5 ride free, and kids 5-13 ride for a reduced fare, a so-called concession fare (which also applies to some other groups, like students and seniors).
  • Discounted fares are in effect on weekends, holidays and evenings after 6.30 pm.

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